One to watch: will the Brexit deadlock finally break this week?

Nov 18, 2020

Brexit negotiations continue this week in Brussels. With serious divergences between the two sides creating a deadlock in negotiations, this week could be a crucial one in breaking this impasse. Speaking about the matter, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that “this is the week where things do need to move”. With the clock ticking down, a lot needs to be achieved in a matter of a few days.

‘Ratchet clauses’

It has been reported that Monday 23 November 2020 is now a key deadline to reach agreement on the main areas of divergence. These continue to be fisheries, governance and the level playing field. However, it has also been reported that there is now a more significant focus on standards, i.e., on whether the two sides will sign up to ‘ratchet clauses’.

A ‘ratchet clause’ would attempt to make the UK align continuously in the future with the EU on regulations in the area of environmental, labour, and tax. This is currently being put forward by the EU as a concept of “shared high standards, evolving over time”. However, it must be mutually agreed. The question now is whether standards will be mirrored or the EU standards used as a baseline by the UK. There is hope that if progress is made this week, there might be some positive movement in the negotiations on this issue.

What about ratification of the deal?

With only 44 days to go to the deadline, agreement of the text of the Brexit trade deal needs to be followed by ratification for it to be legally binding. Reportedly, the vote by the European Parliament to seal a Brexit trade deal could be delayed until as late as 28 December 2020, three days before the end of the transition period, under an emergency EU plan which was put in place for the eventuality of further delays. Additionally, the UK needs to have this deal approved by Westminster.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is due to brief EU ambassadors this coming Friday (20 November) and we could expect to hear more; however, whether this briefing takes place at all is dependent on there being progress in the negotiations.

Keep up to date with the latest developments in our Friday Institute News “Brexit Bulletin”.